Monday, September 10, 2012


This morning I woke up in the middle of my bed, surrounded by my boys. Jeremy was to my right; my 4-year-old Jack was to my left; and Roscoe the cat was sleeping across my legs.

I need some space, I thought as I climbed over Jack to go take a shower.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately. Jeremy and I are living in the same 2-bed, 2-bath condo we bought as newlyweds. Seven and a half years later, we've had countless dinner parties, a few good holiday parties, two babies born, accompanied by a mountain of baby and kid clothes, toys and gear, and one renovation project in this place. We listed once but did not sell. So here we are.

We love our condo for many reasons - it's good to be on one level with little ones; the laundry is right across from the kids' room; we have an amazing view of the skyline; my kitchen is big enough for me to do some damage; and our place is ridiculously close to our work (seriously, door-to-door for me can be as little as 20 minutes). And we have a brand-new park that is within a 10-minute walk.

Jeremy and I are thinking about the when, where and how of our next steps, and it's nice to have the beginnings of a plan, even if it's not imminent. A yard, a neighborhood that is kid-friendly, a room of his own for Jack are my dreams.

In the meantime, I continue to work with the space we've got. My parents and best friends store some of our things. This weekend, I donated five bags of clothes and housewares to the Salvation Army, and I have eight plastic bins of neatly folded kids' clothes stacked in our room, in hopes my parents will be willing to take them home when they visit in a few weeks. Living in a city has helped me to be creative with space.

I think about my space outside of the home. You get a front-row seat to all of humanity, living in Chicago - especially if you ride public transportation. Sometimes the train is so packed, I feel like I should buy the person next to me dinner.

And I went to church for the first time in awhile yesterday. My church is a beautiful old church with a breath-taking chapel. The hallways around the chapel, however, are small and dark. As I was leaving church, I got stuck right behind a homeless man. Faith is put to the test - it's hard to love thy neighbor when the body odor is overpowering.

My work deals with protecting natural open spaces. These spaces range from a city neighborhood lot to  19,000 acres of prairie in the Chicago region. Work has taught me that space for nature is important, but lots of space is not required. It can be a vegetable garden at a school or a tree-lined boulevard, and it can still be important.

Wait a second.

Space is good. Quality space is even better.

Okay, so maybe I didn't want to reach out and give the homeless man a hug yesterday morning, but I do see the problems of real-life right in front of me. And I'm offered solutions. I can look at the church bulletin in my hand, where at least three different opportunities are given to me to volunteer to help right here in these dark halls.

And the train? Well, it's hard to get poetic about a jammed rush-hour train. But people are headed to jobs and they are using public transit, and that's all good in my book.

The family bed? I've made that bed, so I might as well sleep in it. Jeremy, our kids and I don't even know better at this point. And I'll enjoy those cuddles while my babies are small.

One of my friends told me once, it doesn't matter the size of the house, it matters what happens inside the house. Quality space - to share, to love, to dream. I'm glad I have mine, and I wish the same to you.

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